This week’s adventure took us up the coast to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. It is the winter home of all the remaining wild Whooping Cranes in the world. There is also a flock of Sandhill Cranes that winter in the area, and of course there are numerous small animals and birds.
It is about a two hour drive; first we had to get to the other side of Corpus Christi Bay, so we took the highway out to Padre Island then turned north onto Mustang Island. We took the ferry at Port Aransas, crossing west back to the mainland; and then turned north again and went through Rockport. At the Wildlife Refuge we saw quite a few critters. Just across the road from the Visitor Center is a swamp housing alligators. We saw one there, just floating lazily, enjoying the sun.
The loop road through the refuge ran south along the coastline with several stops where you can take a short hike through the brush to the waters edge. About 5 miles down the road is a viewing stand. It is a large concrete platform about 20 feet square, perched on columns several feet above the tree tops. It has a long ramp leading up to it, so you don’t have to climb a ladder, or even stairs. Once we reached the platform, we could look out over the trees and brush, across the swamp and out to San Antonio Bay. We saw a flock of ducks floating in the distant water; but no cranes.
When we were coming back down the ramp, we heard a scuffling in the underbrush and spotted an armadillo rooting around in the dead leaves on the ground. We got back in the Jeep and continued along the loop. Further on we came to a fresh water lake that had dried to a puddle roughly 10 feet in diameter. As we walked out onto the raised walkway, looking at the two small alligators in the puddle, we heard a noise off to our left. We turned and saw the backsides of two wild boars disappearing into the underbrush.
We continued on our way and as we rounded a bend, there was a juvenile whooping crane in the road in front of us! He walked serenely off the road and into the brush. It was an area where they had done a controlled burn and he was out there in the charred brush, looking for bar-b-qued bugs. Later, as we headed home, we saw a flock of sandhill cranes dining in a fallow field.
At my picasa site I have pictures of the critters (01 09 wildlife refuge) and some of the flowers we saw at the Corpus Christi Botanical Gardens (01 09 cc botanical garden).